Brandon Bacon helps Chattanooga contractors find work with EnergyRight’s Quality Contractor Network
Brandon Bacon has barely sat down in his office all morning. His lanky frame breezes through the hallway as he juggles an impromptu meeting with a Chattanooga contractor looking for work and the set-up for a holiday food drive in the adjoining reception hall. His friendly demeanor and warm smile on a gray, cold day is a feat of strength.
The Purdue graduate is only a few months into his new job as project manager at the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. When he’s not pitching in on other projects at the non-profit, he leads a workforce development initiative called Building Futures.
“The partnership with the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga really came about out of a need to source contractors for TVA and EPB’s (Electric Power Board) Home Uplift program,” says Bacon. “The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga was tasked with really getting the workforce program up and running.”
Building Futures is a partnership between TVA EnergyRight® and the Tennessee Urban League Affiliates (TULA). The goal of the program is to connect unemployed or underemployed minority contractors to home energy upgrade training and recruitment opportunities. It also addresses another need—how to increase representation in the local workforce to better reflect the communities they are serving.
“I think minority or even just small construction companies, a lot of them are like one or two-man or women armies where they need some help in regard to how to expand their operations,” says Bacon.
The chance to work with minority contractors brought Bacon to Chattanooga in 2003 when his employer, Smoot Construction, wanted Bacon to work with minority contractors on a project called Hope VI. Since that time, Bacon has served the Chattanooga Housing Authority on public housing projects and led a youth build program that provided construction and leadership training. His move to a non-profit organization seemed like a natural transition.
“I had the opportunity to do some contract work with the Urban League for individuals coming out of prison, giving them a second chance, getting them certified in different areas,” recalls Bacon. “Working for the Urban League and this opportunity here, I was like, ‘Ok, this is a perfect fit for me.’”
TVA EnergyRight, an organization that partners with local power companies across the Tennessee Valley to offer programs and services that help residents make better energy choices, first partnered with TULA in the fall of 2018. TULA focuses on providing minorities with opportunities to secure economic self-reliance. Their collaboration with TVA is designed to create a source of employment in underserved communities. Not only that, but the two organizations saw a way to address one of the primary concerns of TVA’s Quality Contractor Network (QCN): finding skilled contractors.
Made up of highly skilled and knowledgeable contractors who have been specially trained and approved by TVA and the local power companies, QCN members complete homeowners’ energy upgrades when they participate in TVA’s residential energy offerings, efficiency score and Home Uplift.
“To me, it’s a great opportunity for the workforce and contractors to partner and work with what I consider a first-class organization, like TVA,” says Bacon.
Through TVA EnergyRight’s efficiency score program, homeowners can connect with vetted, trained QCN members to complete home energy upgrades and receive energy efficiency recommendations from expert Energy Advisors. With Home Uplift, QCN members provide free home energy upgrades to income-qualified families with TVA, local power companies, and federal, state and local agencies partnering to provide financial support. Many of the families served through Home Uplift live in underserved minority communities.
“It will help my business and not only help me, but it will help the community,” says Bibiana Fuller, who’s not only the owner, but CEO, saleswoman and bookkeeper of her contracting company, BM Remodeling. She will graduate from the QCN training in early 2020 after being recruited by Brandon.
“I mean, he’s been there to support me every step of the way with the certifications, with the classes that I need to take, he has been there,” says Fuller.
She never imagined that her day-to-day work would require a hard hat and steel-toed boots. In college, Fuller studied Language, Culture and World Trade and received a master’s degree in Education Leadership and Policy studies. But her career path took a different turn when she purchased her first house.
“It was a large project, so I started with that and I remodeled the whole house. And then I bought another house. I did that again and I bought two more, and now I own about four houses,” recalls Fuller with a laugh.
After starting her company, Fuller has realized that manpower is not often readily available in Chattanooga.
“A company will request some electricians for me, but I have not been finding enough qualified electricians to do the job, so there is a shortage.”
She and Bacon are hopeful the partnership with EnergyRight will open more doors for minority contractors.
“I want to see every contractor be as successful as possible, so my goal is to help every contractor or workforce build that solid foundation to be able to take on the work that is out there,” says Bacon.